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3 dead in Amtrak Empire Builder derailment on Montana Hi-Line

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At least three people have died after an Amtrak train that runs between Seattle and Chicago derailed Saturday afternoon in north-central Montana. 

The Liberty County Sheriff's Office announced that the three deaths were among the multiple casualties reported.

Five cars of the Empire Builder train 7/27 left the tracks at around 4 p.m. near Joplin, according to an emailed statement from Amtrak Public Relations Manager Jason Abrams. There were approximately 147 passengers and 13 crew members onboard. 

"Amtrak is working with the local authorities to transport injured passengers, and safely evacuate all other passengers," he wrote. 

The derailment occurred about 5 miles east of Chester along U.S. Highway 2, according to an alert from the Montana Department of Transportation. 

A statement from Amtrak Saturday night said the train consisted of two locomotives and 10 cars, with seven of those cars derailing. Amtrak said they are working with local authorities to transport injured passengers, and safely evacuate all other passengers. 

Amtrak stated that individuals with questions about their friends and family aboard the train should call 800-523-9101.

Montana Sen. Steve Daines announced via social media that he is thankful for the first responders at the scene and is monitoring the situation. Sen. Jon Tester wrote on his Facebook page that he has been in touch with Amtrak officials in the hours following the derailment. 

As a result of the derailment, Empire Builder trains 7/27 and 8/28 originating on Saturday, Sept. 25, were cancelled between Minot, North Dakota, and Shelby. Additionally, on Sunday, Sept. 26, westbound Empire Builder train 7 will terminate in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and eastbound Empire Builder train 8 will originate in Minneapolis.

The Empire Builder, which has stops in Montana that include Wolf Point, Havre, Shelby, Browning and Libby, resumed daily service through the state in May of this year after being reduced by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In May 2020, an Amtrak passenger train struck a tractor at a railroad crossing near Bainville, killing the driver of the tractor and injuring several passengers. The train remained on the tracks, the Gazette previously reported, and the crash occurred at a crossing with no crossing arms. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Related to this story

Last week, U.S. Sens. Jon Tester, of Montana, and Deb Fischer, of Nebraska, introduced a bill to improve safety at rural train crossings. Tester cited recent incidents in Bainville specifically when announcing the bill.

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